A Smile a Day Keeps the Doctor Away?


If you keep upbeat, do you really live longer?

A new study by the University of Pittsburgh offers a tantalizing hint. After looking at a population sample of women aged 50 and over, researchers have concluded that there is some kind of link between people with cheery attitudes, and those with higher longevity and resistance to diseases and health disorders.

Okay. Perhaps you’d now like to join one of two queues that are busily forming. The first is the “Well, Duh” queue, occupied by everyone who takes a wry view of scientific findings that confirm what’s widely held as “common sense”. The second is the “Science, What Science?” line. This is where you’ll hear: “how exactly can something as woolly as a positive outlook actually improve your physical health?”

Team leader Dr. Hilary Tindle doesn’t know either – and she points out that this research doesn’t claim that you can grin your way to a ripe old age. (It may well be that simple, but we still don’t know). Yet these findings are weighty. The sample? A whopping 100,000 women.  Of these, the proportion demonstrating an optimistic approach were significantly more likely to dodge ailments and death than their more pessimistic counterparts – a 14% better chance of being alive 8 years after the study began, and an impressive 30% lower likelihood of suffering heart disease during that time.

It’s true that these figures are based on subjective category assignments – a certain amount of informed pigeonholing by the research team – but it’s clear there’s something going on here. And while I’m waiting to find out what it is, I’ll be making sure I have a smile on my face.

Recommended Reading: Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project

Image: milena mihaylova

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.